Iconic Designs: the Eames Plastic Chairs

The Story behind the iconic chairs that decorate modern houses

by Rossana Vinci
6 Love 9417 Visits

How many times have you happened to sit on these chairs? Now that we think of it, they really are everywhere! But have you ever wondered who are the inventors of these key pieces of modern design?


Firstly appeared on the market in 1950, the plastic fiberglass armchair was intentionally designed by Charles Eames and Ray Eames for the ‘International Competition for Low-Cost Furniture Design.’ This competition, sponsored by the Museum of modern Art, was motivated by the urgent need in the post-war period for low-cost housing and furnishing designs adaptable to small housing units.


'Getting the most of the best to the greatest number of people for the least': with these words, Charles and Ray Eames described one of their main goals as furniture designers. 


Charles and Ray Eames with prototypes for MoMA's International Competition for Low-Cost Furniture Design.


Charles Eames with a flat pack table and plastic chairs, © Eames Studio



For years, the designer couple explored the fundamental idea of a one-piece seat shell moulded to fit the contours of the human body.

After experiments with plywood and sheet aluminium in the 1940s produce unsatisfactory results, their search for alternative materials led them to glass-fibre reinforced polyester resin.


© Vitra

© Vitra



The Eames Plastic Chairs collection fully exploit the advantages of the material they are crafted in; rigidity, durability and easy to mould. They were the very first mass-produced plastic chairs in the history of furniture whose shell can be joined to a variety of different bases (such as the “Eiffel Tower” metal base, a wooden base, and a rocker base).


© Vitra

© Vitra

© Vitra



Today Vitra manufactures the comfortable seat shells of the Plastic Side Chairs and Plastic Armchairs in polypropylene, offering a multitude of bases, shell colours and upholstery options.

This allows customers to specify countless different combinations and to use the chairs in the widest range of settings – from dining rooms, living rooms and home offices to office workspaces and conference rooms; from restaurants and cafés to break rooms and cafeterias; from waiting areas and auditoriums to terraces and gardens.


In 2016 Vitra has added approximately 20 mm to the height of the Eames Plastic Chairs DSX, DAX, DSR, DARDSW and DAW, while also revising the seat geometry.


Touguinha House Vila do Conde, Portugal - Ph. © Joao Morgado



Carrer del Sol n.3 Pollença, SpainVILLE S Meda, Italy.



Existenz Minimum | Casa A223 Palermo, Italy






Cover image:Display of Eames Plastic Armchair models, Herman Miller catalogue, 1952 © Herman Miller Archives



    Touguinha House 26

    Touguinha House

    Vila do Conde / Portugal / 2017

    Carrer del Sol n.3 23

    Carrer del Sol n.3

    Pollença / Spain / 2017

    VILLE S 3


    Meda / Italy / 2018

    Existenz Minimum | Casa A223 115

    Existenz Minimum | Casa A223

    Palermo / Italy / 2017